• Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (Lionsgate) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: November 5th, 2019.
    Director: André Øvredal
    Cast: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, , Austin Sazjur, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows
    Year: 2019
    Purchase From Amazon

    Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – Movie Review:

    Based on the book series of the same name by Alvin Schwartz, 2019’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, which was directed by André Øvredal and produced by Guillermo Del Toro, is set in 1968 in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania, on Halloween. Here we meet a trio of friends - Stella Nicholls (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie Hilderbrandt (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck Steinber (Austin Sazjur) as they prepare to go out for the night. Knowing full well, from past experience, that local bully Tommy Milner (Austin Abrams) and his pals will pick on them, they arm themselves with eggs and, well, a bag of poo to set ablaze. The showdown with Tommy leads to the three being chased into the local drive-in (Night Of The Living Dead is playing) where they hide out in a car belonging to Ramón Morales (Michael Garza). It works for a while until Tommy spots them, at which point the chase continues and Milner follows the three into an old, abandoned house that once belonged to the Bellows family. One thing leads to another and Stella leaves with a book of the late Sarah Bellows’ short horror stories, while Tommy and his pals trash Ramon’s car. That night, Tommy goes home and is asked by his mother to deliver some eggs to the neighbors’ place. As he drunkenly stumbles through the cornfield, he’s stabbed through the chest with a pitchfork by a scarecrow, after which straw starts to shoot out of his eyes, nose and mouth.

    From here, things get odd. Stella notices that stories are being written in Sarah’s book in red ink all on their own, and these stories tend to be acted out in real life almost immediately afterwards. When Sarah’s stories start targeting their friends and family members, she and the rest of the crew decide to research Sarah’s past and start putting together the pieces of her history in hopes of stopping Sarah’s stories from killing people in the real world.

    André Øvredal, who in the past directed Trollhunter and The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, takes a bit too long to really get going with this one, but once the movie finds its footing, it turns out to be reasonably entertaining. Given that this is based on a series of books that was geared towards kids, the PG-13 rating doesn’t seem out of place but you do have to wonder how much more effective this could have been had the film been allowed to toy with stronger content. Still, there’s atmosphere here and the effects work is pretty solid. There are some nice nods to the books that the series is based off of and the creature design work featured in the picture is bizarre and unsettling.

    The acting is okay. Zoe Margaret Colletti is quite good in the lead role. Her character is likeable and believable and she handles everything that the story throws at her well enough. Gabriel Rush and Austin Sazjur are fine as her two main friends, both of them there to supply some occasional comic relief. Austin Abrams makes a decent enough bully, while Michael Garza is just kind of flat as Ramon. Dean Norris from Breaking Bad has a supporting part in the film as Stella’s dad but he isn’t really in it enough to bring much to the picture.

    The story itself isn’t bad, but again, the first half has some pacing issues. There are times where you wonder if the movie is trying to exploit the success of properties like Stranger Things or It, but it never quite feels like its ripping either of those off. The movie hints towards political ideas by featuring Nixon posters and dealing with the Vietnam War in a roundabout sort of way, as well as the racial issues that did and still do plague America (when Ramon’s car gets trashed by Tommy they write ‘wet back’ on it) but if it toys with some of these themes it doesn’t really do much with them, they wind up as background noise.

    Ultimately, this is a visually strong movie that could and should have been better than it is, but which is still entertaining enough that horror fans, particularly those with tweens in the household, may want to give it a shot.

    Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – 4k UHD Review:

    Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark makes its debut on 4k UHD from Lionsgate on a 100GB disc in an HEVC encoded 2160p transfer with HDR and Dolby Vision and framed in 2.35.1 widescreen. This is a very nicely shot film and the cinematography really shines here. Black levels are pretty much reference quality while shadow detail remains strong – important for the scenes that take place inside the old, unlit house. Detail and texture are very strong, often times remarkably so, while the autumn color scheme employed in the picture is reproduced beautifully. Skin tones look great and there’s a lot of impressive depth to the image. Shot digitally, the image is spotless. The picture quality here is very strong.

    The main audio option on the disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, and it’s a very good one. There’s a lot of rear channel activity to appreciate, some bombastic and some quite subtle, and it’s used nicely to fill in the mix not just during the more active scenes but during the quieter ones as well. The track is perfectly balanced and free of any hiss or distortion, the dialogue is crystal clear. Bass response is very strong and powerful, but not to the point where it buries anything that it shouldn’t. This is quite an immersive mix, and very well-done. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options are also provided in English and Spanish while subtitles are offered up in English, English SDH and Spanish. An English descriptive audio track is also provided.

    Extra features are made up of a few featurettes, Dark Tales is a five-minute piece with Del Toro, Øvredal and the cast members and a few crew members talking about what makes the books frightening and their legacy, the haunting imagery that was such a big part of the books’ appeal and how they tried to bring this into the movie. Retro Horror spends five-minutes with Del Toro, Øvredal and a few of the cast members talking about how the film pays homage to cinema’s past like Amblin movies and older horror pictures, pointing out some of the way that the movie pays tribute to this material, and how the film balances realism with the fantastical. The Bellows Construct is a four-minute segment that examines the Bellows’ house as featured in the film, how they used an old Victorian home found in Ontario that was perfect for the shoot, some of the strange details that are featured in the house and more. Creatures From The Shadows spends twelve-minutes examining how the crew went about creating the creatures seen in the film based on the book series’ artwork using primarily practical effects work (which is quite admirable) and how it was important to make sure that the work properly reflected how things looked in that book series. The Mood Reels section features seven sections that show off neat little selections that Øvredal put together during each week of the shoot to try and kind of consolidate that week’s work. There are edits and trims in here not seen in the feature version of the movie. There’s twenty-four-minutes of material here, presented with a score behind it but sometimes (though not always) with no dialogue. The Behind The Scenes Trailers: Set Visits section features two bits – Halloween Night and The Asylum – that offer up some behind the scenes footage shot on the two sets mentioned. There’s five-minutes’ worth of content in this section and it does a good job of showing off the sets from the film’s opening and the scene that takes place in the hospital.

    Trailers for a few other Lionsgate properties are also included. Menus and chapter selection options are also provided.

    As this is a combo pack release we also get a standard Blu-ray version of the movie that uses the new restoration as well as an insert containing a code redeemable for a digital HD download version of the movie.

    Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – The Final Word:

    Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is perfectly palatable teenie-bopper horror. It’s longer than it needs to be but once it hits its stride it’s entertaining, if disposable, horror with some decent effects and memorable set pieces. Lionsgate’s 4k UHD release looks and sounds fantastic and while it isn’t loaded with extras, some of the featurettes are interesting enough.

    Click on the images below for full sized Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 22 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark Tolch View Post
      The comedy is that 2 people have signed it; me, and Ian.

      It doesn't show that you signed it. It shows that he and Ian signed it. Which is funnier.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
      It doesn't show that you signed it. It shows that he and Ian signed it. Which is funnier.
      What the hell???